Thursday, April 18, 2013

On the Brink of Disaster

Photo Credit: Dennis Maitland

Abraham moves to a new country and waits for decades for the promises of God to be fulfilled. Joseph is sold into slavery and wrongfully put in prison. Moses finds himself standing on the edge of the Red Sea with an army chasing him; wandering through the wilderness for forty years with a stubborn and obstinate nation likely wasn't enjoyable. David is on the run for his life from Saul; later, he's on the run for his life from his own son, Absalom. Nehemiah faces rejection, conspiracy, and possible death when trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Jesus is crucified.

In these moments, it looks like God's plan has resulted in disaster. Everything is falling apart. The promises don't seem to be fulfilled. The strategy isn't working. The opposition is far too overwhelming.

I was recently corresponding via email with Bob Fox, the amazing lead pastor of my former church in Arizona. I was sharing about some of the difficulties of moving to a new country and starting over. He wrote this brilliant piece of wisdom in response:
In fact, the nature of ministry is such that you never get completely past the feeling that you're on the brink of disaster. And I guess the reality is, you're not, unless you're in an institutionalized church.  They tend to go on forever in a very predictable way.  But then you have a greater problem.  A healthy ministry is always on the brink.
If you want the illusion of safety and security and comfort, stick with institutionalized ministry and spirituality. Embrace the guaranteed strategies. Follow the formulas. Model the mechanistic. Give the pat answers. Play it safe.

If you want the abundant life that Jesus promised, follow the Lion of Judah. It isn't safe or formulaic. But it is guaranteed and secure in an eternal kingdom-of-God I-will-never-leave-or-forsake-you sort of way. It's walking along the edge of a cliff, knowing that if I fall, the God who saves will rescue me. It's a life of impracticality, and a life defined by God's command to "fear not." It's not that we're unafraid; it's just that we've invited Jesus into that fear and continue to obey Him, even when it feels like impending disaster is upon us.

Following Jesus should be both absolutely terrifying and completely life-giving. That's called faith.

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